This Sunday I’ll be shearing a live sheep in church to make a vivid point about the Good Shepherd!
Just kidding. I would never do that because the church vacuum isn’t powerful enough. I’ll actually be talking about how going through the “the sheep gate” is something we do every day of our lives. We go through the gate both outward, into the world, and inward, into a deeper union with God.
The daily passages through the gate are in many ways about leading an integrated life. For a sheep, a well-integrated life means safety, trust, abundant pastures, still waters, and perhaps a nice plush robe for that awkward week after the shearer does his work.
For us, though, a well-integrated life is a bit more layered than that. An integrated life (think “whole” or “fulfilling”) means that all parts of our lives weave together in a tapestry of faith and meaning: our families, our vocations, our money, our community, even our leisure activities.
When we are in fundraising/stewardship mode (as we are now) we have a great opportunity to make this point about what an integrated life looks like, especially since money touches just about every part of our lives.
With thanks to Terri Mathes and the Episcopal Church Foundation, I am beginning to understand some of the categories of giving that have emerged over time. Think of three boxes: In the first are the “converted,” who give substantially to the church – often at the level of the tithe – because the life of the church is so deeply interwoven into all parts of who they are. Next you have the “committed,” who also give proportionally and are actively involved but for whom the church is one of several recipients. Others we can think of as “uncommitted,” who just aren’t there yet.
From this view, the goal of stewardship becomes less about “raising money” than about moving people throughout their lives to places of deeper commitment and ultimately conversion of heart.
In short, it’s about a journey into a place of great integration and wholeness. Those in the “converted” category tend to be deeply integrated: their faith flows through every part of their lives and enlivens those around them. This, I believe is where our “glad and generous hearts” are both formed and inspired.